Published on 19th September 2019 by

Timbuktu is an El Dorado for all travelers who dare to cross the Sahara. Timbuktu is a magical city full of libraries and perhaps the place where you find the best music from West Africa. But in 2012, Timbuktu was conquered by jihadists. The French army had to liberate the city. Can Timbuktu get alive again?

In this series, Dutch Journalist Bram Vermeulen travels through the biggest desert on earth: the Sahara. He goes from west to east, from the Atlantic to the red sea and crosses the four biggest countries. He experiences the heat of the desert, the dangers of advancing jihadism and meets the residents of one of the most inhospitable areas on earth.

Centuries ago, mythical stories were told about Timbuktu. The streets are said to be paved with gold. But many travelers who dared to travel to Timbuktu never came back.
At the end of the last century, Timbuktu was a popular holiday destination for the adventurous traveler. Until 2012. Then the city was conquered by an alliance of Tuareg separatists and jihadists Ansar Dine. They realized a dream that many Tuareg nomads have had for generations: their state, named Azawad.
Timbuktu lived for nine months under the strict Sharia regime. Alcohol was strictly prohibited. Age-old tombs were destroyed. The French army had to liberate the city. But the city is still not safe.

However, Dutch journalist Bram Vermeulen leaves for Timbuktu to ask whether the city can get alive again despite all the dangers. He meets the owner of the only bar in Timbuktu, a son from a mixed marriage between a Malian mother and a French soldier. That origin appears to have saved his life on the day the jihadists took over the city.
Everyone in Timbuktu has two faces, just like the city itself. It´s a place of desert and river like the local journalist who had to make propaganda for the occupiers to stay alive. Or the young women who have been abused by the jihadists, but later come to celebrate and dance to a song that expresses the ideals of the occupiers.

December 2018

Presentator: Bram Vermeulen
Director & Camera: Erik van Empel
Sound: Oleksiy Tugushin
Edit: Daan Wierda
Research: Tjeerd Bijman
Research/Fixer: Issifou Djibo
Camera assistant: Aboulougafar Adamou
Production: Elleke Claessen
Production assistants: Yalou van der Heijden
Jeroen Mondria
Music: Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek)
Online Editors: Nick Boers, Marleen Cuijpers
Commissioning Editor: Hans Simonse

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VPRO VG (world music): https://www.youtube.com/vrijegeluiden
VPRO 3voor12 (alternative music): https://www.youtube.com/3voor12
VPRO 3voor12 extra (music stories): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtgVYRLGraeL9rGMiM3rBHA
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